Before midterms start to constrict your weekends, take a short trip off to Quebec City—the old, charming, and snowy provincial capital just a three-hour drive away. Every year, the city hosts Carnaval de Québec, one of the world’s largest winter festivals, going on from now until Feb. 15. Almost a million people attend the festival each year, and each week offers new exciting events, ranging from the World Snowshoe Championship, the International Snow Sculpture event to the masquerade winter ball. If you are willing to face the bitter cold for countless hours, then Carnaval is an opportunity not worth missing.
Bonhomme’s Ice Palace
The Ice Palace is a staple of the Carnival festivities. The large castle shaped as a snowflake provides an enthusiasm one might get from entering the palace from Frozen, even if it is not of the same magnitude. The massive ice bricks tower at least 20 feet in height, dividing the castle into multiple rooms. You can sit upon Bonhomme’s—the festival’s snowman mascot—throne, warm your numb hands by the fire, or, if you want to relax for a little longer, hang out in one of the beach chairs. The evening is the ideal time to explore the palace, as blue lights cast an eerie, yet surreal glow onto the large bricks of ice.
Most nights at Carnaval reach a bitter -25C. While large fires litter the park grounds, the best and most exciting way to stay warm is to hop into one of the steamy hot tubs. Only a handful of festivalgoers actually take the time to enjoy the tubs; crowds of people spectate those rare few in a mix of astonishment and envy. There are multiple tubs to choose from, so you can take a bath solo or enjoy it with a large group of friends. While the alternative is to sit in one of the enclosed sauna rooms, the hot tubs will provide far more of a story to take home with you. Careful not to put your hair entirely into the tub, or be prepared to feel your locks quickly transform into icicles as the night progresses. Also remember to bring your own bathing suit and towel.
Crowning of the Carnaval Queen
The opening ceremony on Jan. 30 welcomed the festival with music, fireworks, and dancing. The main event of the evening included the crowning of the Carnaval Queen, who was picked amongst seven different Duchesses who represented various districts across the city. The Duchesses were assigned various assignments to be completed in the weeks prior to the crowning, and whoever finished the most was crowned queen. Bonhomme himself crowned the queen with an extravagant white crown. The stage area immediately lit up with fireworks and traditional Quebec folk music filled the speakers. Soon afterward, an unnamed DJ took the stage to play hits from 2005 while a crowd danced their hearts out in snow pants. Such events take place every Friday and Saturday night, but if you are looking for a more exciting atmosphere with more modern music, it would be best to stick to Igloofest. For a more wild evening after the Carnival festivities, head to bars on Rue St. Jean.